Latest projects, prototypes and experiments 

When people ask what are we working onright now at the Learning Environments research group, it is often difficult to summarize all the different prototypes, experiments, and projects. The university keeps track of all our publications, but there is so much more with impact.

Therefore, it is good to write down these once in a while.

This spring we started a new major European research project. SySTEM2020 project tackles scientific literacy and STEM education – i.e. education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – of young people aged 9 to 20 years old. The aim is to provide high-quality science education for all by exploring and designing science education outside the classroom. Key questions and themes are how to trigger learners’ interest, motivation, and autonomy, but also how to design services, practices and tools that will advantage inclusion and equity.

SySTEM2020 kickoff meeting took place last May in the spaces of Science Gallery Dublin, the institution coordinating the project. The next project meeting will be hosted on our campus in March 2019 and will focus on co-designing science education outside the classroom. The workshop participants will come with project partners and science education stakeholders. If you are interested in to join the workshop, drop Eva Durall (@aalto.fi) an email. SySTEM2020 project is supported by the European Commission within the Horizon 2020 Programme.

HUMEX is a national, interdisciplinary research project aiming to improve digital and face-to-face interaction. At the LeGroup we have studied how people feel about personal data tracking in order to design prototypes that are capturing people’s emotions and behaviors for the purpose of enhancing the quality of interaction that is digitally mediated. With an aim to design prototypes we have conducted a contextual inquiry with interviews, focus groups, field observations with various stakeholders. This way we have mapped challenges and opportunities related to possibilities to augment communication with physiological data. Three first functional prototypes are already under construction.

(1) “The Nodders” is a headband device that captures the movement of the head. The audio conference is enhanced by communicating nodding with visuals to fortifies presence and sense of shared understanding. Agreement or disagreement is represented with animated emoticons. The team designing and developing the prototype is Jana Pejoska, Eva Durall, Merja Bauters and Joaquin Aldunate Infante (@aalto.fi).

(2) “FIRA” is a situational translator designed for construction work. The aim is to improve fluency in the communication between foremen, subcontractors and construction workers by overcoming the language barriers. The prototype is designed and developed by Jana Pejoska & Merja Bauters (@aalto.fi).

(3) IF – messenger with a heartbeat is a design concept for messenger tool that is used between customer and customer service. To enhance the sense of human presence in remote communication the messenger provides heartbeat of the customer service personnel, captured with a wearable device equipped with sensors to the customer’s chat window. The prototype is designed and developed by Jana Pejoska (@aalto.fi) & Valtteri Wikström (@helsinki.fi).

HUMEX is an interdisciplinary research project of the University of Helsinki, Oulu University and Aalto University. Our company partners are Reaktor, Avaus, Wunder, If, Fira, Fondia, Mehiläinen, Affecto, Wörks, and Elisa. The project is funded by Business Finland.

In the year-long national project Pänttäyksestä printtaukseen – ’from cramming to printing’ –  we have studied the adoption of 3D modelling and printing in real school settings. In the last couple of years, elementary schools in Finland have embraced 3D printing as a learning tool for their multidisciplinary learning modules. Earlier studies suggest these maker-oriented, hands-on activities provide new learning possibilities for children. Based on our study utilizing ethnographic methods, 3D teaching and learning focus on technical skills instead of advancing creativity and design thinking. However, 3D projects seem to empower children through newly learned skills and the freedom to fabricate almost anything. The project is coming to its end, and the results will be presented in research articles and at a conference in the near future. The research is conducted by Iida Hietala & Jaana Brinck (@aalto.fi). Pänttäyksestä printtaukseen is funded by Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI).

The EU project Learning Layers has released a website with the results from the project, which ran from 2012-2016. From the site’s tools-section you will find our research prototypes: AchSo! – a mobile application for recording, commenting and sharing commented videos at work in situ and Social Augmented Reality, SoAR –  a mobile app for collaboration and communication in physical work environments. The aim of the new website is to make the results of the project accessible and usable for many. If people want to dive deeper into the topic they may read the research articles. Learning Layers was financed within the 7th Framework Programme.

In thelast couple of months, we have presented our research in two conferences. In June in the European Distance and E-Learning Network EDEN annual conference at the University of Genova Teemu gave a  keynote. You may want to check the slides or the video recording of the talk titled:  From Non- and Informal Learning to Documented Co-Learning.

In the end of the EDEN talk, a prototype called Dialogos was briefly presented. In the Connected Learning conference in August in MIT Media Lab, the Dialogos prototype was demonstrated for and discussed with the conference delegates. You may check the video.

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